There was a time when family court judges automatically ruled in favor of the mother. While vestiges of this default primary custody bias may still be felt in some areas of the country, the tide is turning. More and more, courts of law no longer presume that mothers are more fit parents than fathers. In fact, the odds of a dad being able to prove that the child’s best bet for a full, safe and healthy life is for him to be the custodial parent is higher than ever. There are even states that have passed laws indicating that mothers will not be given preferential treatment in custodial disputes.
While times are changing, the reality is still that mothers are more likely to get custody of minor children. As a divorcing dad, your best bet in a custody hearing is to know some of the factors that judges commonly consider in making decisions. There are also steps you can take to outline why you are the better parent.
Factors in Awarding Custody
The first factor the courts look at is which parent is the primary caregiver. The term “primary caregiver” essentially refers to the parent who is best able to meet the child’s needs, who accepts the most parental responsibility and who has a history of primarily cared for the child. Which parent meets the child’s most basic needs? Who handles the feeding, doctor appointments, bedtime stories and bath time fun. Historically, women, even when they work full-time, are much more likely to take on the primary caregiver roles. So start taking on as many of these tasks as you’re able. The court will take into account your history of performing such tasks.
The second factor is the parent-child bond. What is your relationship with your child? Does your child miss you when you’re away? Have you spent time building a relationship with him or her.
They younger the child is the more strong the mother-child bond may be. This does not negate your effectiveness as a father, but it’s a result of more traditional parenting roles. Because mothers are conventionally the parent that primarily cares for the child from infancy to preschool, the closeness that develops is a different sort of bond than the one that is created between father and child. The more involved you have been in the rearing of a young child, the closer your overall bond will be.
In a lot of jurisdictions, many courts presume that kids will be kept emotionally whole and healthy by having a meaningful relationship with both parents. One of the primary factors taken under consideration is which parent is more likely to foster a healthy relationship between the children and the other parent. Any parent who has attempted to commit parental alienation — such as poisoning the child against the other parent, or refusing access to the child — will not fare well in any family court. And there are other extenuating circumstances, such as allegations of child abuse and instances of domestic violence, of course.
Try To Get Along With Your Ex
If there is any way that you can maintain a civil or even amiable relationship with your ex, it can only help your custody and visitation chances. Maintaining this type of relationship, especially in front of your children, will only help them in the long run. It’s a well-documented fact that kids who come from divorced homes fare much better if they are not used as weapons of manipulation. Allow your kids to maintain a positive, healthy relationship with both parents. Speak only positively of your ex. Not only will it help you in court, but it really is what’s best for your children.
Consider a Fathers Rights Attorney
If you’re hoping to be the custodial parent of your child, the best course of action is to first consult a family law attorney with experience in Fathers Rights. Because laws differ from state to state and family courts can be as unpredictable as the judges who preside over them, your attorney’s insight can become the most valuable tool you have at your disposal. He or she will have some insight into how certain judges will react in any given situation, and how they may lean in custody disputes. They can help you to build the strongest case possible.
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The decision to divorce is never an easy one. But when divorce is the only option, spending thousands on lawyers and spending months or years in a court battle isn’t necessary. If you and your spouse can work together, you might be able to get a quickie divorce.
No Fault Divorce is Faster
The waiting period for divorce differ from state to state. There are states that have practically no waiting period at all. Some have waiting periods of up to two years. Use our Divorce Law Summaries by State to get an idea of your local divorce requirements.
No fault divorces, where you and your spouse have reached an agreement on child custody and debt/property division are the most painless way to get divorced (if there is such a thing).
The following is a more detailed list of the topics you’ll need to discuss with your future ex before deciding if a do-it-yourself quickie divorce is right for your situation:
Decide who gets what. This includes all personal and joint property you accumulated as a couple, and even before. Everything is on the table here. The items you should inventory include: household furnishings, bank and investment accounts, cars/recreation vehicles and real estate.
Debt should be divided according to ability to pay, who actually took on the debt, and the division of the property.
If either you or your soon-to-be ex opted to leave the workforce in order to raise children, take care of a family member, or because of an illness or disability, alimony may be warranted. However, be very cautious when entering into an agreement to pay alimony or spousal support. Modifying such agreements can be tough.
Child Custody/Visitation/Holiday Schedule Arrangement
Decisions about who will be the custodial parent (the parent children live with for at least 51 percent of the time) how often the non-custodial parent will have access to the kids should be decided in advance. An outline of holidays and which parent will have the children on what day should also be outlined in advance.
Non-custodial parents are obligated, by law, to pay child support to the custodial parents. To determine how much child support should be paid in your situation, check your state’s website for a child support worksheet or calculator.
Do the Paperwork
In a quickie divorce, you and your spouse will have to work together to complete all the required forms and documents. The next step is to find state approved forms for uncontested divorces. To locate the proper forms, follow the steps below:
- Simply Google “[my state] divorce forms.” For example, if you live in Nevada, you would search “Nevada divorce forms.”
- Contact your county clerk’s office. County representatives can guide you to the proper web sites to download the needed forms or inform you that you need to come to the office to obtain certain forms.
After you’ve completed all the necessary forms, go over the documents to make sure that you’ve followed all of the instructions, that each answer is as complete as possible. Be sue to print and use only black ink. If you have questions or issues in filling out the forms, you can contact your county clerk or contact the Bar Association to get contact information for low cost or pro-bono attorneys.
The next step is to file the forms with your family court. The forms should be filed in the county you reside in. You’ll need multiple copies of the forms. There will also be a filing fee which is different in each county.
Finalizing Your Quickie Divorce
Uncontested divorces don’t usually require court appearances, but some counties may hold a brief hearing. Now it’s time to file your proposed final decree, along with any other documents your state requires. Once the judge signs it, a copy will be mailed to you. In most states, the time between filing and receiving the final decree is only a matter of weeks. The final decree indicates that you are officially divorced.
The process is rich in detail, and even the smallest mistake on a form or oversight in filing the correct form can lead to a delay. Be sure to look over the paperwork several times before filing, and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out to an attorney. Most are willing to give limited advice in filing, but don’t expect too much.
Divorce is painful enough. There are options out there for consenting adults to dissolve their union when they collectively decide to not make the process even more painful.
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Why A lot of dads don’t understand the importance of paying child support consistently. More often than not, in fact, it’s hard to do so without harboring resentment towards the other parent.
Court Ordered Child Support Is Frustrating
It can be a frustrating experience to be court ordered to fork over 18 percent of your annual pay to an ex. It’s harder still to do so without wondering if your hard earned money is actually being spent to better the life of your child.
Nevertheless, the overall well being of your child rests upon your willingness to contribute monetarily to their upbringing. Even if you view your ex as the enemy, try to remember that the money you pay towards child support is, in fact, given to provide for the child.
I may be a woman, but I’ve been fortunate enough to view this topic from both sides of the fence.
Is The Ex Blowing Your Money on Herself?
I have plenty of male friends who have voiced their concerns on this topic. My dear friend Jesse, for example, was ordered to pay nearly $700 per month after a less than harmonious split from his wife of nearly 15 years. “How do I know she’s not using my money to buy new boobs?” he once asked me. “I have no proof she’s using my money to better the life of my kid, and I have no way of holding her accountable.”
That’s a real and legitimate concern. I understand his frustration. “Let me put your mind at ease,” I told him. “The majority of moms aren’t using child support money to support their lifestyles.” I mean, let’s be honest here: the typical y monthly support payment, even saved over a number of years, isn’t going to fund a lavish yacht or car.
Raising Kids is Expensive
Raising a kid is expensive. When you add up all of the basics, a parent is fundamentally required to provide for a child–food, shelter, warm clothing–the typical child support payment barely makes a dent. Add in piano lessons, ballet, math tutoring, the occasional trip to a movie theater or a birthday party for eight kids, and you can see how assuming that your ex is using your money for anything other than meeting your child’s needs can get a little ridiculous. I’m not saying that abuse never occurs. I’m just saying that it’s rare. I speak from experience.
I’m the mother of a beautiful eight-year-old girl. Her father and I divorced when she was only 16 months old. He was ordered to pay $450 per month. Until recently, he rarely, if ever, paid anything. How did he avoid being fined or jailed? Simple. He took jobs that paid him under the table and he moved around a lot, from state to state.
As a young single mother, that money would have gone really far for me and my daughter. She missed out on things that would have made her life more enjoyable because I couldn’t afford the extras. I was keeping a roof over our heads. Tumbling lessons were out of the questions. That trip to the theater wasn’t going to happen. Fortunately, things haven’t been so tight over the past several years. But I’ve watched my daughter suffer because her father, the man who helped bring her into existence, was being selfish and saw paying his child support as a choice and not a priority.
Don’t do that to your kids. They really are the ones who suffer.
You Could End Up In Jail
But if you need additional motivation, one of the primary reasons that you should never stop paying your child support is really for your own well-being. Negligent fathers are thrown in jail for failure to meet their obligation every single day. That’s a very real thing. Your ex could drag you back to family court where you will be forced to stand before a judge and explain your unwillingness to contribute to the monetary rearing of your child. You may get one or two chances to prove that you can pay regularly and on time, but beyond that, expect to serve some time.
If the reason for not making your support payments is a financial inability to meet your obligation, communicate that to both your ex and your court designated case worker.
If you live so far from your kids that you’re unable to interact with them on a regular basis, you should still pay your monthly obligation. If you can’t be there for them physically or emotionally, be there for them monetarily.
Do It For Your Child
There are a million scenarios that can play out between parents and in your own life that might make meeting this obligation a struggle, but remember, court ordered child support payments are enforceable by many unpleasant means. But it shouldn’t take the threat of being jailed to motivate you. Love for your child should do that.
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The precarious realm of modern dating after divorce can be beset with pitfalls and peril. The all-consuming horror show that is divorce can leave you feeling more like a zombie than a real person. Past hurts can make it seem impossible to ever be romantically interested in someone new. Even a somewhat amicable split can leave you scarred and pessimistic regarding love, dating and rejoining the ranks of “single and looking.”
The Idea of Dating After Divorce Can Seem Daunting
If the divorce was fraught with custody battles, alimony judgements, division of assets and overall nastiness, you may feel more inclined to sail the world alone rather than ever entertain the idea of putting yourself out there again. The idea of jumping back into the frigid waters of dating after a divorce can seem daunting.
I should know. I’ve been through this four times. That’s right, I said it: I have been married four times. If anyone is an expert at dating, it’s this girl right here.
So, what do you need to know? What is the modern dating scene really like? Does everyone meet online? What do those perils and pitfalls look like?
One of the most important things about reentering the dating world is to remember that being married changes you. Whether you were married for 10 months or 10 years, you cannot approach dating from the same head space you did in years past.
It’s Okay To Go Slow
It’s okay to move slowly at first. Don’t do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. If you’d prefer to dip your toes in the water rather than doing a dive bomb, that’s okay. Do a gut check. If you’d rather browse dating profiles anonymously online before creating a real profile, just to get your bearings, then do it. If you want to hit up a local singles hot spot with a good book and an inquisitive eye before talking to potential dates, do so. When you do reach out, remember not to focus on past hurts. Don’t constantly talk about your divorce or your ex. It’s a new day with new opportunities, including opportunities for dating after divorce. Embrace them.
Online Dating Is A Great Starting Place
Upon reentering the dating world, one of the best places to start is online dating. In a world where 54% of couples report meeting online, I think it’s safe to assume that the majority of single people, even those who won’t cop to it, maintain an online dating profile. From the perspective of meeting new people, there’s really no medium that can compete.
Online dating doesn’t carry the stigma that it did even 10 years ago. At the risk of sounding like your high school alter ego: Everyone is doing it. There are a variety of online dating sites: Match.com, OkCupid.com, PlentofFish.com, EHarmony.com, and hundreds more. These sites have become one-stop shops for finding a mate.
The great thing about online dating after divorce is that you can literally pick and choose from thousands of profiles and photos. You can weed out potential dates by age, education or even interests. Dating no longer depends upon the serendipitous fates smiling down upon you in a grocery store aisle, causing you to bump into someone you are both attracted to and find interesting. Nope. Just fire up your laptop, log on your smartphone or browse profiles on your e-reader.
Tips for Creating a Profile
When setting up your profile, think about what you’re hoping to get out of this dating experience. Are you into casual dating, looking for someone to travel with or hoping to meet the next love of your life? Sites like OkCupid and Match offer a space on the dating profile where users can indicate what they’re looking for. It’s important to be as honest as possible in your profile. Post a recent photo–one taken in the last year. Don’t fudge your height, weight or job status. If you are currently separated but not yet divorced, be sure to indicate that in you profile stats. If you are between jobs, say so. It’s fine to focus on the positives, but don’t lie. It’s better to be up front in the beginning then to go on a few dates with someone, decide you really like them and have them dump you because they don’t feel you’ve been forthcoming.
Each platform engages users in a different way. Some offer paid memberships, while others are free. The common theme amongst each one, however, is that users can communicate with one another via private message.
Be Careful With Online Communications
There are a few things to remember about communicating with people online. First, be careful not to divulge too much personal information. No need to tell someone you just met the name of the company you work for. If they ask you to specify where you’re from, indicating a section of town is fine.
Second, if you click with someone through email ask to move the conversation offline. If you’re dealing with someone who refuses to talk to you on the phone, end the correspondence. There’s a good chance that the person is not who they are representing themselves to be. Additionally, emailing in online dating forums can turn into a never ending debacle of pointless missives. If you’re interested in getting to know someone, the sooner you can move the relationship out of the virtual world and into the real one, the better.
Online dating has advantages and disadvantages, like anything else. Brave souls who have traversed the cyber-terrain in search of love or a dinner date sometimes find that online dating is not for them, and that’s okay. I know what you’re thinking: don’t people meet in person anymore?
People do still meet organically. If you’re looking to connect with someone you have common interests with, I suggest visiting Meetup.com, a website that matches people according to their interests. You can join a group interested in writing, karate, coding–just about anything you can imagine. Most “clubs” meet at least once a month. It’s a stellar opportunity to interact with new people. Who knows. You may meet someone who catches your eye.
Put Yourself Out There
There’s also the old stand by: wait for fate to intervene. Put yourself out there. Visit your favorite coffee house. Go to concerts with your friends. Stop in at your favorite watering hole for a solo drink.
The important thing is to be open to new experiences. It’s a big world out there. Open yourself up to the possibilities. Time for you to join the ranks of the living.
(c) Can Stock Photo / martinan
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Getting divorced is a stressful process. Facing the prospect of going into a courtroom to divide assets and time with children can force you to look at your life through a new lens. Have you ever considered what will happen to your property if you were to die unexpectedly? What would happen to your children? Have you created the proper documentation that would ensure they would benefit from your years of hard work? It’s time to get your life in order. This often means creating a will or similar plan.
Defining beneficiaries can be a stressful but necessary part of estate planning. Understanding the intricacies of life insurance policies, pension plan accounts, and IRAs is not sexy stuff. Time spent in such efforts is almost certainly always filed under the “Things I Have to Do” column.
But choosing beneficiaries is a very important decision with complicated estate and income tax consequences. In actuality, the whole affair can get quite complex and lawyerly rather quickly.
For example, a will and estate plan are very similar: both are defined as making outright gifts to a certain number of people. Consider the following: a will might name the beneficiary as the spouse and contingent beneficiaries as the children. A simple variation on this kind of arrangement might contain a stipulation of trust where beneficiaries under the age of 25 could not claim what was left to them until the age of 35.
Unfortunately, such arrangements don’t offer any kind of asset protection for the beneficiary. This type of plan can make assets subject to the the beneficiary’s creditors.
Plans that provide creditor protection features usually begin at $1,500 or higher. If you’re looking to create a trust that might escape estate taxes and creditors for years to come and that number has now risen to approximately $2,500 to start.
Like with most things, the devil is almost always in the details. When naming beneficiaries there are factors that should be considered, including:
- The age of the person(s) to be included in the policy or plan. Most plans won’t transfer assets directly to minors until a guardian is approved by a court.
- The beneficiaries ability to effectively manage assets. This, of course, is always a prominent factor for consideration when building a plan that will involve an underage person as the beneficiary. Creating a trust in the person’s name might be the best course of action rather than a direct transfer.
- When choosing a beneficiary for a pension plan it’s important to note that, unless waived in writing, a spouse is required by law to be the primary beneficiary of such an account.
The key to creating a plan that reflects your intentions and desire is to understanding the overall undertaking. The following is a breakdown of various types of plans and policies.
Benefit proceeds are always paid out income tax free upon death, and it doesn’t matter who is designated. Instead of property being disposed in a will, beneficiary forms completed correctly insure that proceeds do not go through probate.
When creating your plan, it would behoove you to name a contingent or secondary beneficiary. If the primary beneficiary passes away the trust will then be transferred to the surviving beneficiary.
Should both the first and secondary beneficiaries be deceased, then the beneficiary is generally the “estate of the insured,” meaning that the death benefits end up being probated and distributed based upon the decedent’s last will and testament. Dying without a last will and testament means that the state will designate the beneficiaries.
Pension Plans and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs)
For legal reasons, spouses are usually named as the primary beneficiary of a 401(k) or a profit-sharing account. The only way this can be avoided is if said spouse waives that right in writing. Single people who are looking to name a beneficiary are eligible for a tax-free transfer to an individual retirement account. Everyone’s situation is different, and extenuating circumstances may occur. Consider consulting a tax professional to learn more about rules and changes in your situation that could affect the overall plan.
Naming Children Can Create Problems
It’s a natural instinct to name your children as a secondary beneficiary in any estate plan or will. If your children are over the age of 18, more power to you. However, if your kids are still in diapers it may not be the best initial course of action. Naming a child as beneficiary comes with it’s own unique set of problems. Often times, insurance companies, pension plans, and retirement accounts will not pay death benefits to minors. The process is usually such that the benefits are held until such time that they could be placed with a court-approved guardian and/or trustee of the child’s trust. Specifying a guardian, trust, or trustee is the best bet for creating a competent management scenario of the proceeds for the children. For example, naming a children’s trust as the beneficiary is smart because the proceeds could be invested and managed according to your will and desire.
It’s important to note the IRS regulations are subject to change, and seeking counsel on such matters is advised. Currently, non-spousal beneficiary plans are allowed to annuitize retirement plan distributions over the life of the beneficiary. Such options may vary depending upon your employer. Ask if this is an option under your plan prior to naming a child. A competent financial advisor might also be able to provide valuable insight into this effort.
Keep Your Plan Up-to-Date
When completing any kind of legal living document (which basically means that it can change as long as you are living) including estate plans and wills, it is advised to regularly check beneficiary designations so that your overall estate plan or will accurately reflects your desire for the distribution of assets. Unfortunately, outdated beneficiary designations (for example: a former spouse or deceased parent) could create an unintended situation in the event of your untimely demise. Also, it’s important to bear in mind that beneficiaries are paid only under the name designated in the legal document. Should a name change for any reason, the new information would need to be added to the document as soon as possible. If you first created your will when your kids were in the third grade and they are now graduating from college, it’s time to update your documents. When undertaking the task of estate planning, it’s a worthy investment to have a lawyer present for consultation so that you understand what you’re doing. It’s easy to get bogged down with legal jargon.
The best way to protect your future beneficiaries is to ensure that you have seen to all of the details in the process, and that the final documents align with your overall goals.
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